A roundabout is being considered to help improve the intersection of Berkeley, Green End and Paradise avenues.
Looking to make the area safer for motorists and pedestrians as well as creating a new gateway to the Sachuest Beaches, the Town Council approved additional study of a 90-foot-wide, single-lane roundabout in the area.
The move came at a meeting Tuesday night from Town Hall after a lengthy discussion from officials and residents, some who supported the concept, others who said they’d prefer a four-way intersection instead.
Money for the engineering work by Fuss & O’Neill was already included in an existing contract with the Providence-based firm. A 30 percent design report was expected from Fuss & O’Neill in March, where the public would again have an opportunity to offer input.
If built, the roundabout would be the first in town.
“This area is begging to be a roundabout,” council Vice President Thomas Welch said. “It is big and wide and flat. If there was ever a time to do it, this is it.”
Although there aren’t any in town, that doesn’t mean that roundabouts haven’t been contemplated in other locations.
Most notably, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) proposed installing roundabouts at Two-Mile Corner where East Main and West Main roads meet along with at the intersection of Coddington Highway and West Main Road.
Those plans were pulled in 2011 after vigorous opposition from the town and many residents, who questioned whether the design would work on one of the busiest stretches in the state.
There has also been talk about placing them at the foot of Miantonomi Avenue where it meets Green End Avenue along with where Valley Road intersects Aquidneck Avenue. However, those plans have never moved past the discussion phases.
According to RIDOT, a roundabout is “a one-way, circular intersection built with no traffic signal equipment. Traffic flows around a center island, with those entering the circle yielding to traffic already in the roundabout.”
State statistics indicate roundabouts are much safer and cost effective than traditional signalized intersections. RIDOT data showed there are approximately 7,000 fatalities and close to one million people injured during intersection accidents annually in the United States.
Because there’s no signal at a roundabout, RIDOT also said there’s no maintenance or electricity costs, resulting in average savings of about $5,000 per year at each intersection.
In Middletown, the three-way east side intersection has been long a concern, not only because of the amount of pavement in the location.
Local leaders and residents have said cars typically pick up speed on Green End Avenue, particularly heading east down the hill past the Middletown Senior Center. That means motor vehicles are traveling faster than the posted 25 mph speed limit, making it tough to see around the blind corner for those pulling out from Paradise Avenue.
With the onset of COVID-19, officials and residents have noted there are more people than ever out walking and riding bicycles in the area. But with such a large area of pavement there, it can make it more of a challenge for walkers and runners to cross safely.
An “Intersection Improvement Study” presented Tuesday from Fuss & O’Neill indicated there were three options to fix the intersection. Those came after a detailed review of the intersection, which sees about 5,500 vehicle trips a day.
Creating a new four-way stop, removing pavement and installing sidewalks, which had an estimated cost of about $400,000.
Installing a new smaller roundabout with a 90-foot inscribed circulatory diameter with sidewalks for a projected cost of $750,000.
Building a new larger roundabout with a 110-foot inscribed circulatory diameter with sidewalks for a projected cost of about $1 million.
Fuss & O’Neill traffic engineer Kevin Johnson said other alternatives like a traffic signal
were considered, but ruled out because they didn’t fit. He said state and federal grant money would likely be available for such a project, something the town could apply for once the 30 percent designs are completed.
The town’s volunteer Roads & Utilities Advisory Committee endorsed the 90-foot-wide rotary concept, saying it was the best option for the area.
Resident Chris Patsos, who lives next to the intersection, said he was firmly behind the idea of a roundabout, not only to slow cars down, but to make the area safer.
“We all live here and that’s a very busy intersection,” Patsos said. “Roundabouts slow people down.”
Green End Avenue resident agreed Charles Aboyoun agreed, saying a roundabout would help address traffic concerns.
“If you have a roundabout, you are physically stopped,” Aboyoun said. “You can’t go 60 mph through a roundabout. You are not going to have a T-bone accident at a roundabout.”
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